By Eva Pasco, author of "Underlying Notes"
Tilt-a-Whirl, Flying Scooter, The Whip--just a
smattering of exciting rides at Crescent Park that pinned you to your seat with centrifugal
force. Crescent Park was the "Coney Island of New England." Birthed in
1886 to amuse, the park was built around the 400 foot Bullocks Point Dock along the
shores of Riverside, Rhode Island. Construction of The Carousel was
commissioned to lure people off the beaches, much to their amusement. Over the years the park changed
ownership and during the war (1941-1945), much of its structures were in disrepair and decay. In
1951, Crescent Park was revived in the spirit of amusement, such that it
flourished in the 50s and 60s. Penny Arcade, Alhambra Ballroom, Shore Dinner Hall...here I come!
Nearly every Sixties summer Sunday my dad drove us
to Crescent Park--not my choice, but my sister's. Polar
opposites, she never got her fill of thrills on the adult rides my father accompanied her on,
whereas I was always too chicken to take a ride on the wild side. The Whip and Dodge
Ems were more my speed. I did ride the Ferris Wheel with my sister who tormented me by
rocking the cradle if we were stuck at the top during ticket collection. I bobbed up and
down on the Merry-Go-Round horses inside The Carousel, but never considered
tossing metal rings into the clown's gaping mouth, let alone going for the brass one.
I took my chances inside the dark
and mysterious Penny Arcade, always fascinated by the robotic fortune teller sitting
inside a glass booth. For a quarter, I snatched my mass-produced fortune while the
snaggletooth’s eyes glared at me. Strolling by the concession stands, one soaked up enough oil
fumes from the fries and dough boys, while inhaling the cloying sweetness of cotton candy which my
sister and I sometimes shared, but never finished. My favorite stand was the Fish Pond
where you scooped a fish into your net and won the prize whose number corresponded with the number
at the bottom of your fish. I remember walking away with a Kewpie doll on a stick. Gee, I
wonder how much that cost my dad...
Though my mother and I were not totally amused by
spending our Sunday afternoon at the park, all of us enjoyed eating clam cakes and chowder at the
Shore Dinner Hall, reminiscent of a big mess hall. Sitting on a bench along a cafeteria
table, the sea air stirred our appetite for typical New England fare. Although the food was delicious, I now wonder
how much of the chowder was flavored with cigarette ashes rumored to flavor the pot.
Changing tastes in amusement, financial problems, and
pollution contributed to the death of Crescent Park in 1979. By then the Alhambra
Ballroom perished in a fire, and the park had that rundown look. However, The
Carousel was saved and still goes round and round as do the nostalgic memories of a bygone
era when families stuck together and took a Sunday drive to some enchanting or